Leadership Presence and Self-Worth with Tiffany Houser

On this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit podcast, host Jenn DeWall welcomes Tiffany Houser to the show to talk about how to build your leadership presence and self-worth to find more success in 2024! 

Meet Tiffany Houser, Founder of EVOLVE & Creator of Self Worth Advantage®

Tiffany Houser is passionate about people and transformation. As an executive and leadership coach, entrepreneur, and woman of color, Tiffany knows firsthand about the rollercoaster ride of self-worth. 

As the founder of Evolve, Tiffany coaches senior leaders who are ready to experience powerful breakthroughs around their self-worth, authentic leadership style, vision, and purpose. Tiffany created Self Worth Advantage® based on her work with leaders who experience feeling like an imposter. Self Worth Advantage® is a framework and approach that uncovers what’s compromising your self-worth to support you, transforming it back into confidence and trust. 

Tiffany’s coaching creates massive clarity and confidence by reassuring leaders they are not the only senior leader in a top role or founder experiencing this, and equips them with the tools to unpack and transform their self-worth to leave that imposter behind for good!

The Imposter Syndrome Problem

As the episode opens, Jenn and Tiffany share how they have experienced imposter syndrome and how it deeply affected their leadership presence and sense of self-worth. 

Jenn shares, “ So many of us don’t realize the way that we may be discounting or discrediting or giving up on ourselves because of not having that confidence or struggling with imposter syndrome. And I say this as someone who absolutely goes through it all the time. All the time! And I teach it like it doesn’t. So I think we probably need to normalize that too, that if it does happen to you, it’s common! So common you created a whole program, because you realized that this was a really big problem!” 

Tiffany agrees, explaining, “I’m so glad you shared that, Jenn! Because me too. I, too, continue to have those feelings. And really, when we started looking at the research, there was a crazy stat, like over 40% of senior women in senior leadership roles in America really do not put their name in the hat for a raise or a promotion. When they know they deserve it, they won’t even ask. 

So feeling like an imposter affects us women way more than our male counterparts. And so it is, and I think the other stat is that over 80% of people in the workplace feel this way. So one of the biggest things we tell our clients is you are not alone! This is not something you alone are experiencing.“ 

Leadership Presence vs. Executive Presence

Later, Jenn and Tiffany delve into the concept of executive presence. Jenn confesses that “we’re going into executive presence, leadership presence, executive presence, the people that you might admire are struggling with imposter syndrome. But if they have their leadership presence, they’re able to manage it in a different way. So we’re gonna dive in and just start our discussion on how to build a leadership presence. But we have to get into it. You and I both do not love the expression “executive presence.” Tell me, tell me why you don’t like it, Tiffany.

Tiffany explains, “Because I used to work with a lot of HR partners. So as a coach, we tend to work with some sort of senior talent or a senior HR executive in a company. And this is common, they say, we’re hiring you to help this leader build their executive presence or their media training or media presence. 

And as we started to really look at that this year, again, as we were putting this body of work together, we started to realize how that causes imposter feelings. 

So when someone is told or thinks they need to work on or develop their executive presence, the next thing that tends to come up is, I am not enough. So I need to develop this aspect, which is not when you really think about executive presence, it’s not a skill per se.

It has nothing to do with you being strategic, thinking critically, you know, developing strategy or managing people. That has nothing to do with it. The notion of executive presence is how you are talking, speaking, and in some cases, how you dress and how you address others, which, you know, I can say does matter.” 

Executive Presence and Appearance

Tiffany continues, “Not how you dress, though. I think that’s a little crazy. It doesn’t work anymore because we’re seeing it from Gen Z, how it doesn’t work. They refuse to conform to this executive presence. So if Gen Z, you want all these talented, young next-generation leaders– if there is an executive appearance that they one day need to, you know, conform to or develop into, that may turn some of them off. We see with Gen Z, they appreciate authenticity, they appreciate transparency.

They want to create, they want to innovate, they want to transform. And if they have to now worry or or consider their executive presence, that may not work for them. And you may see them walk away. Or, and this is so funny because in another lifetime, I used to work at tech startups, digital startups, and you know, this was back in the early two thousands, late nineties. And, you know, for people who of a certain age or of a certain genre or era, you know, walking in or meeting some people from startups and you are wearing a suit, it was kind of like the reverse of executive presence. There was judgment there. Oh no, this person’s walking in with a suit, they can’t work for us. We’re chill, we’re laid back. 

So really, the main reason why I don’t think it works is I don’t think it’s really defined in an equitable, continuous way. So it could mean something for women, and it could mean something different for people who don’t identify as women, it could mean something for the marketing department, and it means something totally different for the finance department. So I think that’s another reason why it doesn’t work. 

There is no, you know, equitable or consistent thing that we’re all aiming for. So it has so much room for our imposter to come out. And we hear this one a lot. Am I polished enough? That’s like, the thing that we do to ourselves and have the imposter come out. Well, I don’t look like them. I don’t dress like them. I don’t talk like them. And that really pokes holes in our inclusion and our diversity as well. If we all need to look a certain way and be a certain way once we get to the top.”

Moving from Executive Presence to Leadership Presence

Then, Tiffany explains why thinking about your presence as a leader can be more effective than worrying about your “executive presence.” She explains, “When you individually unpack or unlock what it means to you to have leadership presence. Maybe for me, it might be giving people space, creating more of a collective rather than being the person who leads from the front. Maybe my leadership presence might be leading from the side or leading from behind, really inspiring and motivating and coaching my team.

Or, you know, and then for someone like you, it could be leading a meeting. So that’s something that we hear a lot that people need to develop their executive presence because they haven’t done well leading meetings in front of senior leaders or the board or investors. 

So that’s why if we let go of executive presence and its antiquated definition and rules if you will, and we step into leadership presence. Because when we think of a leader, there are so many different things. And then as people and HR leaders, they know to develop a leader, there are many different tracks, many different nuanced ways to do this. It’s not just one cookie-cutter way to do it.”

Jenn agrees, explaining, “I love that. There’s not just one way to do it. And the tie-in of emotional intelligence, it could not be truer. Our leadership presence is our emotional intelligence. It’s our ability to observe, interact, and show up in our surroundings. And the piece that I will say that I did attach to executive presence that I still feel is true, and I think you probably do too, is that it is a felt presence, right? 

You can feel someone’s energy and attitude. It’s very much the shadow that you cast. But I love that connection that you make in terms of emotional intelligence. Maybe I simplify it, and you can tell me if I’m getting this definition right, but the definition of leadership presence then is stepping into your own authentic power and your strengths and your gifts, but also understanding the environment or culture that you’re operating in. 

Leadership Presence and Self Worth Go Hand in Hand

Later in the episode, Jenn and Tiffany take a deeper dive into the role self-worth plays in developing an effective leadership presence and overcoming imposter syndrome. To get Tiffany’s expert advice on how to build awareness of your patterns and get grounded in your self-worth, be sure to listen to the whole episode! 

Where to Find More from Tiffany Houser

Connect with Tiffany on LinkedIn

Visit the Evolve Website

Check out the Self Worth Advantage®

Thank you for listening to The Leadership Habit podcast! We’ll see you next week!